Tuesday, March 13, 2012

About the Maryland State Assessments (MSA)

Compiled by Tanaya Gable

Maryland State Asessement (MSA) Reading and Mathematics Test  Administration
Grades 3 – 8 in Reading and Mathematics:  March 12-21, 2012; 
(Make-up Testing) March 22-28, 2012 

The early years of a child’s education are very crucial. These years of education are geared towards building a solid ground of educational understanding. As children advance to middle school they are then prepared for the more rigorous work ahead in high school. If you are a parent or educator, the term MSA (Maryland School Assessment) is probably not foreign to you. Every student will take Maryland School Assessments (MSAs) as part of the elementary and middle school experience. These statewide assessments are one of the many measures to gage how well a child is learning. The MSAs, paired with other measures (like homework, class work, quizzes, and projects), provide parents and educators with information about students’ academic progress so that every student has the adequate support and opportunity to succeed.

Aspects of the Test:
  • Multiple-choice questions and questions requiring written responses.
  • Measures basic as well as higher level skills
  • Students test for approximately 90 minutes each day. There are four days of testing––two days for reading and two days for math.
  • The testing vendor send scores for individual students to local school systems. The school systems then distribute the scores to parents
The MSA scores show how well students learned the reading and mathematics skills in the State Curriculum. (A "norm-referenced" score is also provided to show how students performed compared to other students across the nation.)


The reading section takes place over two days with 90 minute sections per day. Each testing session withing is broken into smaller time blocks. Tests for all grades evaluate general, informational, and literary reading processes.

The Reading section of the MSA has 2 types of questions:
  • Selected Response Items (SR) -- offers students (usually) four answer choices
  • Brief Constructed Response Items (BCR) -- requires students to write answers consisting of a sentences or paragraphs


As with the reading test, the math test takes place over two days. Testing takes approximately 90 minutes each day; each testing session being broken into smaller time blocks.

And as with the reading test, the math sections have various kinds of questions. In addition to the Selected Response Items and the Brief Constructed Response Items that all students receive, the math section poses additional forms of questions to students depending on the grade level being tested. Students in grades 5 through 8 also get Extended Constructed Response Items (ECR) that require students to write a longer, more complete answer. 7th and 8th graders will have Student-Produced Responses (SPR) which require them to record all answers on a grid by shading in the circles that correspond to the numbers of their answers.

The state provides calculators for students, though some sections allow the use of calculators and others do not. The state also provides scrap paper, graph paper and a dual scale ruler (or two separate rulers) for all grades 3 through 8, a protractor for grades 5 through 8, and a compass for grades 7 and 8.


The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires that every state measure reading, math, and science achievement at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Maryland fulfills NCLB by reporting MSA and HSA scores to the U.S. Department of Education. For more information about NCLB, go to www.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml.  

Statewide tests are useful for:
  • guiding school-wide curriculum development efforts
  • creating or modifying classroom lesson plans
  • understanding a child’s academic progress
  • developing individualized strategies for that child
  • providing information on where a child may need extra support.


How will I know how my child did on an assessment?  All parents receive a Home Report with their child’s scores. Contact your child’s school or the Local Accountability Coordinator for the local school system to find out when your child's Home Report will be sent. For a list of local school system websites, go to www.MarylandPublicSchools.org/MSDE/schoolsystems.
Where can I find out how my child’s school is doing on statewide assessments? Information about the progress of particular schools, counties, and the state are doing is printed in an annual “report card” (the Maryland School Performance Report). This online report provides an Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) chart for each school that demonstrates whether or not a school made all of its performance goals. To find your child’s school information, go to www.MdReportCard.org  and use the navigation bar at the top.

Note: Parents are sent a Home Report with their child’s MSA scores from the local school system. Reading and math scores are made available over the summer. Science scores are available the following September. For more information about the MSAs go to www.MdReportCard.org or www.MdK12.org.  


The Take 15 for the Family and Take 15 for the Health of It initiatives are just one way MSDE helps families become more engaged in education. Daily tips and ideas of activities to do at home, as well as tips on how to talk to your child about a variety of health-related topics can be found online at www.marylandpublicschools.org/msde/programs/familylit/take15health. Check out http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/msde/ for other helpful sources and updates.

Ready at Five, in partnership with MSDE, has an online series called Parent Tips that has information about how parents can help build a child’s skills and abilities, which can be found at www.ReadyatFive.org  Maryland’s Early Childhood Curriculum Project provides information and resources to child care and other nonpublic early childhood programs for disabilities, birth through 6 years old. For information about materials and how you can be assured that your child is learning
the skills needed to start kindergarten on the right foot, go to www.MarylandPublicSchools.org/MSDE/divisions/child_care/preschool_curriculum.

The Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR) includes a kindergarten-level assessment, which teachers complete for each student, as well as a set of indicators of what children should know and be able to do. The information collected allows teachers to plan instruction that will help develop the skills, behaviors, and abilities necessary to meet kindergarten expectations and move on to the first grade. For more information about the MMSR, go to www.MdSchoolReadiness.org.

For more information about MSDE’s various programs, go to www.MarylandPublicSchools.org/MSDE/divisions/studentschoolsvcs.  
For information about specific programs and initiatives in place locally, contact your local school system or your child’s school. A list of local school system websites can be found at www.MarylandPublicSchools.org/MSDE/schoolsystems.  
Additional information about parent involvement can be found at www.Mdpta.org  or www.mdpirc.org.